Desperate Ravings #7 – All Good Things…

Thanks to everyone who has participated in Desperate Ravings so far.

We’ve given away $150 in prizes, but still have more to go! Remember, you have until June 12, 2012 to get all seven Desperate Ravings assignments done in order to qualify for…

  • One $50 gift certificate from GatheringMagic
  • One $50 gift certificate from LegitMTG
  • One $50 gift certificate from ManaDeprived…
  • … or a one-hour coaching call from YT!

Well, what are we waiting for? Here goes the last Desperate Ravings assignment, from Neal Stephenson’s The Confusion:

The day then dissolved into a long sickening panic, a slow and stretched-out dying. Jack rowed, and was whipped, and other times he whipped other men who were rowing. He stood above men he loved and saw only livestock, and whipped skin off their backs to make them row infinitesimally harder, and later they did the same to him. The raïs himself rowed, and was whipped by his own slaves. Whips wore out and broke. The galleot became an open tray of blood, skin, and hair, a single living body cut open by some pitiless anatomist: the benches ribs, the oars digits, the men gristle, the drum a beating heart, the whips raw dissected nerves that spun and whorled and crackled through the viscera of the hull. This was the first hour of their day, and the last; it quickly became too terrible to imagine, and remained thus without letting up, forever, even though it was only a day—just as a short nightmare can seemingly encompass a century. It passed out of time, in other words, and so there was nothing to tell of it, as it was not a story.

They did not begin to be human again until the sun went down, and then they had no idea where they were. There were not as many men in the galleot as there had been when the sun had come up and they had dipped dry oars into the whitecaps as the bugle played. No one was really sure why. Jack had a vague recollection of seeing bloody bodies going over the gunwales, pushed by many hands, and of an attempt that had been made to throw him overboard, which had come to naught when he had begun thrashing around. Jack assumed that Mr. Foot could not have survived the day, until later he heard ragged breathing from a dark corner of the quarterdeck, and found him huddled under some canvas. The rest of the Cabal had all survived. Or at least they were all present. The meaning of survival was not entirely clear on a day like this. Certainly they would never be the same. Jack’s similitude about trapped beasts gnawing their legs off had been intended as a sort of jest, to make Dappa feel less guilty, but today it had come true; even if Moseh, Jeronimo, and the others were still breathing, and still aboard, important pieces of them had been chewed off and left behind. That night, it did not occur to Jack that, for some of them at least, this might amount to an improvement.

You Know What to Do:

  1. Copy the above selection from The Confusion by hand and in triplicate, and
  2. Upload to the Desperate Ravings HOMEWORK page. You can get there via or (my homework is already up!)

Whips wore out and broke.

Whips wore out and broke – are you kidding me?

How much damage do you have to do with — and to — a whip to wear it out in one day, let alone one hour?

These two paragraphs from Stephenson are basically my favorite two paragraphs in all writing, in terms of writing. Stephenson does everything well that you can do well. He blends love and violence and authority, queering the relationship between master and slave while laying everyone out.

He stood above men he loved and saw only livestock.

… Then he whipped the bejeezus out of his friends; had the bejeezus whipped out of him.

This passage is a great “lists” passage, too. I am of the belief that list-writing is the best kind of writing. Yesterday’s from Gravity’s Rainbow was also superb list-writing… But surely when you read over the two passages you could see how different they were. Pynchon made you go fast with his run-on sentence. Pynchon’s passage was a relentless rush of snowballing madness… Stephenson’s here is slow, rolls out and develops at the pace of ice or glass, forces you to live through, maybe relish, each syllable of violence and triumph.

I have copied this passage more than any other in my own practice, pre-Desperate Ravings. Maybe someday I will be able to write nearly as well as Neal.

I would like to thank GatheringMagic, LegitMTG, ManaDeprived, and all of the Desperate Ravings participants for humoring me all week. I’d think it just dandy if you gave them a visit:


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#1 MTGBattlefield on 06.10.12 at 9:10 am

Desperate Ravings #7 – All Good Things……

Your story has been summoned to the battlefield – Trackback from MTGBattlefield…

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